Maryland women’s basketball dropped its first game of the 2016-17 season Thursday, as the Terps couldn’t take down Connecticut at home, falling 87-81.
The No. 1 Huskies have now won 87 consecutive games, and they improve to 12-0 this year with wins over Maryland, Baylor and Notre Dame, the three teams ranked behind them in the nation’s top four.
Maryland simply didn’t shoot well enough to pull this one out. The Terps made 47 percent of their shots in the game, and were at 41 percent through three quarters. They finished the game just 5-of-20 from three; Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Kristen Confroy, their two best threats from deep, were a combined 0-for-7.
Katie Lou Samuelson’s dominant sophomore campaign continued, with 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting. Kia Nurse added 19 and Gabby Williams had 16.
Freshman point guard Destiny Slocum led the Terps with 23 points, including 19 in the second half. Senior center Brionna Jones added 19 points and 13 boards, but only took seven shots from the floor, making six Freshman Kaila Charles chipped in 18.
The Huskies led 20-12 after the opening quarter, which was characterized by three lengthy runs: a 7-0 UConn start, a 10-3 Maryland run and a 10-2 Husky rebuttal. The Terps shot just 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) in the first. Kaila Charles had eight of Maryland’s 12 points, while Walker-Kimbrough didn’t get on the board in the first 10 minutes.
The Terps jumped back in it early in the second quarter and tied the game at 27 with a Charles layup, only for UConn to respond with a 9-0 run highlighted by Nurse’s four-point play and wide-open corner three. Maryland inched closer in the final minutes of the half; Blair Watson’s steal and layup in the final seconds brought the score to 36-31 at the break.
UConn then scored 14 points in under three minutes to start the second half. Maryland never came back.
The Terps could only cut their deficit down to 13 in the third quarter, and trailed 68-53 at the end of the frame. Whenever there seemed to be a glimmer of hope, the Huskies would hit another open shot or force another turnover.
Maryland scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, bringing the score down to 68-61 and sending the crowd into a frenzy that lasted all the way through UConn’s timeout. Even after Samuelson drained a three out of the break, the Terps kept clawing, bringing it down to five on multiple occasions.
But UConn remained steady and pulled away late. Saniya Chong put the nail in the coffin for the second straight year with a corner three in the final minute, which put the Huskies up nine.
Three things to know
1. Xfinity Center was rocking. The arena sold out a women’s basketball game for just the third time since its opening, with the other two coming in 2007. The capacity crowd erupted with every big shot, and reached its apex in the Terps’ fourth-quarter run. It was full enough to drop the Maryland flag in the second half, which hardly ever happens at women’s games. But UConn was an unstoppable force.
2. Kaila Charles had her breakout game. The freshman’s 18 points are just behind her career high of 19 against Washington State, and led the team until Slocum started sizzling late. She was effective on drives and in the midrange game. Along with Slocum, she can be an integral part of the rotation during conference play.
3. UConn is almost certain to make history now. The Huskies are now three games away from their own all-time record of 90 straight wins. No. 21 South Florida is the only ranked team they’ll see before that record falls; they don’t play No. 6 South Carolina until Feb. 13, when they’ll be going for 100. It’s an incredible run that includes three wins over the Terps, but this was really Maryland’s best shot at playing spoiler.